Retailers posted better-than-expected sales in August as consumers sought out bargains during the key back-to-school selling season.
Early reports gave analysts hope retailers were able to clear excess inventories ahead of the crucial holiday-selling season without having to resort to deep discounts.
But with stubbornly high unemployment and weak consumer sentiment, shoppers were still focused on low prices when choosing what to buy.
The cheaper it is, the more I go there, Jialing Jiang, a Chicago high school student said on Wednesday as she shopped on the city's State Street.
Nine of the 11 retailers that reported as of early Thursday morning beat analysts' expectations, according to Thomson Reuters data.
Discounting was particularly heavy this back-to-school season, and early, Ken Perkins, president of Research firm Retail Metrics, said.
Analysts also said the warmest August in more than a quarter of a century helped spur sales of late lingering summer clothing inventory.
The month was the warmest since 1983 and second warmest in 50 years, according to Planalytics Inc, which provides weather information to businesses.
Retailers that focused on low prices continued to be among the best performers.
Warehouse club operator Costco wholesale Corp
Limited Brands Inc
Dollar store operator Family Dollar Stores Inc
Analysts, on average, expected sales to rise 2.5 percent across the retail industry, according to Thomson Reuters data. Sales tax holidays in several states were helped lift sales of selected items, analysts said.
Retailers will face tougher comparisons starting in September to 2009 sales, after lapping declines in same-store sales in 2009 so far this year.
(Additional reporting by Emily Stephenson in Chicago)
(Reporting by Brad Dorfman, editing by Dave Zimmerman)